New Castle County Police officers were sworn into the city of Wilmington's jurisdiction and Wilmington Police officers in turn were sworn into county jurisdiction during a ceremony held Friday morning in the City/County Building to bolster each agency's crime-fighting efforts.
The joint ceremony was a collaborative effort by New Castle County Executive Thomas P. Gordon and Wilmington Mayor Dennis P. Williams to recognize once and for all that criminals did not recognize jurisdictional boundaries so why should police officers be hindered by such arbitrary methods. Gordon first broke the news of the arrangement during his budget address to New Castle County Council in mid-March.
Gordon and Williams both witnessed Friday morning's ceremony within council chambers.
Gordon said Friday's action did not signal the dawning of a metropolitan police force.
"The city of Wilmington has a fine police department," he said. "This is nothing more than cooperation. Cooperation has been nil."
Going forward, safety would be improved for both city and county police officers who heretofore had not been able to call upon each other for back up even if only a city block separated the two agencies, Gordon said.
"This is the beginning of a good day," he said. "And I welcome the opportunity to have such a great relationship with the city of Wilmington."
Wilmington City Councilman Michael Brown, chairman of City Council's Public Safety Committee, said the jobs of police officers were not getting any easier during these modern times.
"Those who choose to violate our laws are bolder today than they have ever been," Brown said. "And their actions continue to threaten our peace and our way of life. Those who would harm us are being more careless.
"It is our job to become more united and better equipped so that we can counter their actions and their intent," he said.
Wilmington Police Chief Christine R. Dunning then swore in New Castle County Police officers as WPD members that would support the U.S. Constitution, the Constitution of the state of Delaware and to give allegiance to the authorities of the United States of America, state of Delaware and the city of Wilmington governments.
Next, New Castle County Police Chief Col. E.M. Setting swore in Wilmington Police officers as county police officers that gave their allegiance to the U.S.A, Delaware and New Castle County.
The police officers also swore to obey the commanding officers appointed over them as part of their oaths.
After the ceremony, Dunning said there has always been cooperation between the city and county forces, including sharing intelligence. But, this would increase cooperation and help to combat some of the court challenges made from a jurisdictional standpoint, she said.
Page 2 of 2 - "As the mayor had said, criminals know no jurisdictional boundaries," Dunning said. "So, if there is a county officer that's in trouble out there and we have an officer that's closer, we'll definitely cross those lines and help them out.
"There may be times when we are the closest unit that can get to a citizen that's served by New Castle County and vice versa," she added. "I think besides blurring the jurisdictional boundaries, I'm hoping we'll have less court challenges too."
Setting said policing had become complicated and expensive to the point where law enforcement agencies could not afford these jurisdictional lines between the city of Wilmington and the rest of New Castle County.
"It doesn't mean that we're coming into the city in force," he said. "It simply means that we're not going to pay so much attention to these lines. When we're going two miles over the line to back up a city police officer we now have the arrest power of a Wilmington police officer and vice versa. The criminals aren't worried about those lines and we might as well face that.
"It's probably something that should have happened before," Setting added. "Myself and Chief Dunning both believe we're all standing behind this same badge. One says Wilmington and one says county but Chief Dunning and I both have the same belief system. Policing is more complicated; it's very expensive. We can't just order up 100 more officers. You have to have greater cooperation and communication. We have to work together."
The WPD has an authorized strength of 289 officers while New Castle County has an authorized strength of 370 officers.